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The Pros And Cons Of Joint And Separate Finances

So you and your partner are getting serious. The talk of marriage is in the air, however you haven’t quite decided on how to manage your finances as a couple. Should you continue to have separate accounts or join your finances? Should the idea of joining accounts even be considered prior to walking down the aisle?

There are so many beliefs around what couples should do with their finances especially after marriage. Some people strongly believe that once a couple has joined together in marriage, they are “one”; therefore their finances should be “one”. Some believe that it works out better to keep finances separate even after saying “I do”. Others follow the “three pot system” which is basically a combination of having both individual and joint accounts. In the three pot system, couples set up a joint account for collective expenses and continue to keep individual accounts for individual expenses.

So the real question becomes, what’s the best system to have? There are pros and cons to all. Let’s take a look at some of these pros and cons.

System #1: All Accounts Are Shared.

Pros:

  • Easier to monitor what is coming in and going out of the household
  • Establishes trust in some cases.
  • Can be less confusing
  • Less paperwork
  • Budgeting is less complex
  • Supports the belief, “What’s ours is ours”. Many consider marriage as a joint union and strongly feel that married couples should take on this belief.

Cons:

  • Having different spending and saving styles can create conflict
  • Possible control issues may come into play if one partner makes more money than the other.
  • It becomes a challenge to purchase each other “surprise” gifts
  • Can possibly foster built up resentment if there is not an agreement on how to keep things balanced
  • Decrease in privacy

System #2: All Accounts Remain Separate.

Pros:

  • You are free to spend whatever you want out of your own account without having to answer to your spouse.
  • You don’t have to worry about your spouse spending too much of what you have put in
  • Your account becomes more protected from having your wages garnished if your spouse makes poor financial decisions.

Cons:

  • Can create conflict with a spouse who strongly believes that finances should be combined in a marriage.
  • Can possibly damage trust in a relationship.
  • Can possibly lead to financial infidelity

System 3#: The Three Pot System (Having both individual and joint accounts)

Pros:

  • Can be considered the best of both worlds, therefore reducing conflict. Shared expenses are covered with the joint account and individual accounts allow for more “fun money” spending.
  • Can be a healthier approach when there are differences in beliefs when it comes to finances
  • Different spending and saving styles can be maintained
  • Less conflict
  • Can encourage more communication regarding finances when establishing the budget for the joint account.

Cons:

  • Can be more time consuming to manage so many different accounts
  • Conflict can still develop if there is not an agreement around communication about what each one has in their own individual accounts
  • Can create conflict if there is not a balanced approach to contributing to and withdrawing from the joint account.

So then the question becomes, which system is the best system? Well, it really depends on the couple. It’s important to communicate about your personal beliefs and habits around finances prior to getting married. In an ideal world, couples will have a meeting of the minds when it comes to saving and spending. Unfortunately, it doesn’t normally happen this way. Savers have a tendency to marry Spenders and vice versa. People are usually influenced by their childhood when it comes to managing finances. My advice to couples is to weigh the pros and cons to all available approaches and come up with a system that is going to create the minimal amount of conflict in your household.

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Nikiya Spence

Nikiya Spence

Nikiya Spence, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Certified Money Coach with over eleven years of clinical experience. Nikiya has been debt free and living a money conscious lifestyle for several years. She received training with the Money Coaching Institute and specializes in helping individuals and couples transform their relationship, habits, and behavior with money to increase their wealth.